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Amazon Loss Less Than Expected

Online retailer Amazon.com Inc. posted quarterly financial results that blew away estimates, surprising Wall Street with a smaller loss than it did a year ago, as sales ballooned almost 80 percent.

The Seattle-based company said that on a pro forma basis its operating loss was $68 million, or 25 cents per share for the three months ended Sept. 30, compared with a loss of $79 million, or 26 cents a share a year earlier.

Amazon was expected to lose 33 cents a share, according to consensus analyst estimates compiled by First Call/Thomson Financial.

Revenues were $638 million, a 79 percent jump over the $356 million from a year earlier. Analysts had expected the company to bring in between $590 million and $605 million in the quarter.

Amazon also said its customer base grew by more than 2.8 million to more than 25 million. It said operating cash usage in the quarter, a recent concern among investors and analysts, fell to $4 million from $76 million a year earlier.

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Xerox Reports $167M Loss

Struggling business machines maker Xerox reported today a $167 million third-quarter loss and said it planned layoffs and asset sales to get back in the black.

Not counting a 6 cents per share charge related to accounting problems in its Mexican operations, the loss equaled 20 cents per share. Analysts surveyed by First Call/Thomson Financial had expected a loss of about 19 cents per share.

The company said it planned a $1 billion cost-cutting program, including layoffs, and the sale of some $2 billion to $4 billion in assets.

“It is clear that just fixing our operational issues, although critical, is not sufficient,” Xerox Chairman Paul Allaire said in a news release.

Xerox said it was looking at selling its China operations, part of its ownership in a joint venture with Fuji, and its interest in spin-offs such as ContentGuard and Inxight.

The company also said it was looking for a noncompetitive partner for its Palo Alto, Calif., research laboratory and for investors in Xerox’s inkjet printer business.

“Our actions are centered on improved cash flow and profitability — and at the same time strengthening our strategic core,” Xerox President Anne M. Mulcahy said. “These actions will be implemented in a disciplined and controlled manner, but we are moving forward with a sense of urgency.”

Xerox has struggled over the past year with stiff competition and the fallout from a disastrous reshuffling of its sales force. The company also is under investigation for alleged accounting irregularities in its Mexico business.

Earlier this month shares of Xerox plummeted nearly 26 percent in one day after the company warned that it would post a third-quarter loss of between 15 cents and 20 cents per share. Analysts had been expecting earnings of about 12 cents per share.

A few days later the company slashed its quarterly dividend by 75 percent, to 5 cents per share.

A rumor in European markets that Xerox might be considering seeking bankruptcy court protection drove the stock even lower, although it rebounded slightly in the days before today’s announcement.

The company said today it plans to “reallocate resources” from its Stamford headquarters to the field, but did not elaborate. There had been speculation the company would move its headquarters — where about 500 people work — to its offices in Rochester, N.Y.

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